Parking, stadium among top priorities for Miami District 1 candidate Yanny Hidalgo

Yanny Hidalgo, candidate for Miami City Commission District 1.
Yanny Hidalgo, candidate for Miami City Commission District 1.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles of candidates for the Miami City Commission District 1. All of the candidates’ profiles will run in print and online at miamiherald.com.

Yanny Hidalgo believes that voters in Miami’s first district are not looking for a politician to represent them on the City Commission.

“We are looking for a community leader,” he said. “That’s what District 1 really needs.”

Hidalgo, a 39-year-old attorney, says each corner of the district has different priorities and he wants to attack the issues in a way that addresses those priorities.

In Allapattah, he said, public safety is important to residents who want to see crime reduced. For Grapeland Heights, the biggest concern is the proposed no-bid 99-year lease for the mall, office park hotel and soccer stadium complex for the upcoming Major League Soccer team Inter Miami. In Flagami, the major problem is traffic along Northwest Seventh Street.

“The city of Miami commission and the mayor have failed us because they are approving more and more buildings in that corridor,” he said.

Hidalgo is one of seven candidates vying to fill the District 1 seat on the City Commission. Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort, who holds the seat, is term-limited this year. Vote-by-mail ballots are scheduled to be sent to voters beginning this week. Election Day is Nov. 5.

The candidate also wants to extend the city’s free trolley system and eliminate parking fees in front of businesses and housing buildings. Parking rates are proposed by the Miami Parking Authority, a semi-autonomous government agency, and ultimately approved by the City Commission.

Hidalgo lives three blocks from Melreese golf course, Miami’s only city-owned course that could be replaced with the proposed stadium complex, Miami Freedom Park. After speaking with his neighbors, he’s seen no support for Miami Freedom Park.

“There is not a single guy from my neighborhood who agrees with the stadium,” he said.

He said he’s a big soccer fan and supports a stadium in Miami, but he does not believe it should replace Melreese. He criticized the larger additional development — the one million square feet of retail, restaurant and office space — emphasizing that the stadium would attract traffic beyond game days because of commercial development and use of the stadium for other events.

Hidalgo said he believes any negotiated deal to redevelop Melreese should go back to the voters for approval.

In addition to his law practice, Hidalgo’s previous experience includes serving on the boards of East Little Havana Community Development Corp. and the Miami Bayside Foundation.

Through October, Hidalgo’s campaign has raised $26,100, less than all but one of the six other candidates.

Hidalgo said political divisions on the City Commission have made it hard for Miami’s administration to do the daily work of running the city. The commission is frequently argumentative, and commissioners have engaged in personal attacks and angry exchanges several times this year.

He said City Manager Emilio Gonzalez cannot be as effective as he should be under the cloud of political infighting and wants to help bring decorum to City Hall.

“It’s impossible for [Gonzalez] to do an outstanding job if we have this commission that is fighting,” he said. “There is nothing good coming from that commission.”

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.